We Americans are obsessed with taxes.
And just last week our tax fixation was in the spotlight with the Supreme Court ruling that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is constitutional because it is tied to Congress' authority to create and collect taxes.
This national tax preoccupation shouldn't be a big surprise. Taxes, or rather our opposition to those levied by the British crown, led 236 years ago to the birth of America.
We all know about the hated tea tax without representation. But it was just one of a series of levies and other grievances our founders had against King George III.
In early July 1776 the stage was set for us to move toward our own George, Washington that is, and our independence from England. The reasons were spelled out in the Declaration of Independence:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
-- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
-- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
-- Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.
You can read the rest of the Declaration of Independence courtesy of the National Archives. It's not that long and well worth the time.
Independence Day data: On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 representatives of our still 13 colonies.
Those are all important numbers in American history.
Here are a few more Independence Day facts and figures compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau:
- 2.5 million -- Estimated number of people living in the newly independent nation in July 1776.
- 313.9 million -- Estimated U.S. population on this July Fourth.
- $3.6 million -- The dollar value in 2011 of U.S. imports of American flags. The vast majority of this amount, $3.3 million, went toward U.S. flags made in China.
- $107.1 billion -- The dollar value of trade last year between the United States and the United Kingdom. Yep, we've made up, with our adversary in 1776 now ranking as America's sixth-leading trading partner.
- 31 -- The number of U.S. locales with "liberty" in their names. The most populous one as of April 1, 2010, was Liberty, Mo., with 29,149 residents. Iowa, with four towns with "liberty" monikers -- Libertyville, New Liberty, North Liberty and West Liberty -- has more than any other state.
- 11 -- The number of U.S. towns with "independence" in their names. The Show Me State again takes the top population honor, with Independence, Mo., and its 116,830 residents.
- 7.2 billion pounds -- The total production of cattle and calves in Texas in 2011. It's a good bet that the steaks, burgers and hot dogs on your backyard grill came from the Lone Star State, which accounted for about one-sixth of the nation's total production.
Happy and safe July 4, my fellow Americans!
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